Unplug with a book…or not - By Rula Sinara

This past week we did a little bedroom juggling so that each of our three boys could have his own room. Two of them had been sharing, not only a room, but many of the books in it. Both are avid readers and book collectors, so you can guess what ensued. Now, if my kids had e-readers, the issue of which books got to rest on which bookshelves (in which room) would have been averted, but my kids don’t have e-readers. Yet.

And I like it that way.

The first thing my youngest said when he scanned his new room was, “Mom, I need more bookshelves. I want my room to look like a library.”

Man, did that get me right in the heart. I too was addicted to reading at their age, and just like them, I keep (and kept) the books I read and love. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to share my old books with them. As they’ve grown up, we’ve moved from my picture books to the novels I read for English class. There’s something special about the fact that my teen didn’t just read A Midsummer Night’s Dream…he read the very copy I did, complete with my notes in the margins and my maiden name on the inside cover.

My favorite place to go as a kid was the public library, and to this day I love the smell of books. I love that when you walk through a library, it’s so quiet you can almost hear, or at least anticipate, the craziness, adventure, romance, fights and cries from behind all the bindings. Call me nuts, but if you’ve ever read the book or seen the movie Inkheart, you’ll know what I mean. Yes, I’m sentimental about traditional books.

I don’t have an e-reader myself, though I’ve read books on my PC. For the mere sake of convenience, I’ll be getting a reader soon, but I won’t be giving up my print books. I’ll probably even buy print versions of any book I fall in love with in e-form. The thing for me is, I associate reading a book with unwinding…unplugging. You’re not unplugged with an e-reader or pad device in hand. I already feel like my iphone is glued to my palm. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read and loved many digital only books, it’s just that my heart is still in between paper pages.

So where do e-readers fit in with kids and unplugging?

On one hand, we want to make reading fun for kids, and nowadays most kids will jump at anything with a screen. There are also advantages to e-books, such as kids being able to look up word definitions with the touch of a finger. Of course, they could do that the old fashioned way (yes, mean mom here ;). The catch is, screen time is screen time, and both pediatricians and eye doctors recommend limiting a child’s screen time to no more than two hours a day. If you take the time spent on the computer (educational sites or not), time at the TV (again, educational or entertainment), time on phone screens if your kid is older, time the computer is needed for homework, and then factor in the number of hours we’d love our kids to read…yep, you do the math. We’re waaaay beyond two hours.

It doesn’t matter what a screen is used for or how high tech it is (though low glare helps), all that screen time has an impact on vision (eyestrain and myopia) as well as brain wiring. It’s like the recent ‘teach cursive or not’ arguments. Less things are hand written now, but learning those skills develops a different area of the brain. I think balance is key and in my house, that means holding off a bit longer on e-readers for my kids because 1) I think they’re bombarded enough with screen time and 2) I want to continue nurturing their love of print books. I want to share my old books with them. 

I know they’ll fall in love with e-books soon enough.

What do you think?


  1. Rula, I so agree with you. As long as books remain and as long as there are still libraries, I hope parents continue to take their children there to just enjoy the presence of so many books. I'm glad to hear your boys love to read. I believe kids need things that don't require batteries or chargers. And for young kids the artwork in pictures books can't get any better. I love books and I'm going to give mine up kicking and screaming.

    1. Roz, the artwork in some of these books is incredible. I recently bought the above pictured version of The Wind in the Willows for my youngest and the artwork is gorgeous.

      One of the things that has held me back from getting an ereader for myself is wanting a dedicated reader rather than an ipad, but not wanting book covers in black and white.

  2. I like having print books. I'll eventually try an e-reader but I'm in no rush. You should get a copy of Karen's summer camp books for you boys! They might like it!

    1. Aimee, so true about Karen's books!

      I've been putting off an ereader for so long, but with more digital books coming out it's tough. For example, I just got back from taking my two oldest to the orthodontist. One got braces so the appt was over an hour. I really wanted to start reading one of the Heartwarming books I had downloaded on my kindle for PC...so I lugged my laptop along and my laptop is not light at all.

  3. I agree! I haven't bought an e-reader yet, despite both of my first novellas being digital-only lol:) I usually buy the pdf version of the downloadable book to read it on paper. And yes, the smell of old books...:)

    1. Jennifer, I wasn't expecting so many others not to have e-readers yet! I thought I was a rarity LOL.

      Yes, the smell, the feel and even the sound of pages turning. Old books in particular are treasures to me. I have two books my dad had to read in a college class. He gave them to me when I went to college. One is Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. The copyright page is torn but I can still see an original date of 1913 and a (re)production copyright of 1922 on it. The other book is Vanity Fair by W.M. Thackeray and I can't find a date on it, but it looks very, very old. It's kind of cool that I have books from him, just like I'll pass down books to my kids. Somehow, passing down an outdated e-reader wouldn't be the same LOL.

  4. Rula - Good Morning! I think the best part about being in a really good bookstore or a library is to look around you and see how many people in this world have ideas they want to share - many of them, ideas that will enrich your life. And that's only the people who can write down their ideas - what about all those other thinking people who aren't gifted with words? It puts your puny little self in perspective. My husband's father was an illustrator (Peter Jensen - he did one of the reprints of The Scarlet Pimpernel) and it is had to get the same impression of artwork on an e-reader. There are some in color, though, aren't there? I love books, but I don't hate e-readers. My husband has neuropathy and can't turn the pages in a book, but he can tap the 'next page' bar on his Kindle. And think of the trees we'd save, the fuel not used because e-books don't have to be driven anywhere. Lots of pros and cons on both sides - how lucky we are to have books - however we read them!

  5. Hi Muriel! That is so cool about your father-in-law :).

    You're very right about the pros and cons. You'd think that, as a tree lover (my kids call me a tree hugger ;), I'd have jumped on e-readers, but I'm slow to change. I don't hate them, and they definitely serve their purpose and have advantages...they just lack the sentimental, nostalgic something that traditional books have (for me at least).

    Reading is indeed what it all boils down to, and I'm glad the Kindle makes that possible for your DH! I know for a fact that there are low vision patients, as well, who benefit from being able to adjust font size and viewing angle, while not being tied to a desk.

    I guess as the world changes, we must keep re-calibrating our balance point :). I just hope my kids will carry an appreciation for what'll likely be nothing but antiques by the time they're my age. It's kind of like how some of the younger generation will watch an old b & w film, and appreciate it for what it is, while others will scoff at it.

  6. Hi Rula! I loved your post- such a timely topic. eReads make good business sense for people like me that will buy a book to download and read because it's convenient and then buy the actual book because I love having shelves filled to overflowing. (much to my husband Greg's dismay since his signed baseballs are now in the closet- haha) For kids- I see more and more at the middle school level with them and if it encourages reading/literacy than as a teacher I am all for it! However, the tactile experience of holding a book, the smell of it- like you said- it's so special. How can you compare the excitement my daughter gets when she opens her big box of books for Christmas to an Amazon card- not to knock Amazon since most of our book purchases come from there :) Also- at a younger age, children like to hold on to, chew on, play with their board books and interact with them physically. I hope eReads of picture books can mimic that experience. It is so important to their growth and maturity! So I guess if I had to choose- I will always come down on the side of books :)

  7. Hey Karen! I chuckled at the Amazon card gift comment because the past few holidays and birthdays, I tried going the gift card route, thinking my kids would be happier to chose whatever they wanted. They weren't so happy. Kids really want to find an actual wish item in a box. Maybe gift cards aren't instant gratification enough lol.

    And you're so right about how babies and toddlers interact physically with books. Plus, many of those board books have manipulatives like hidden windows or textures, which are important for development.

    But yes, we do want to motivate reading in middle schoolers :). I lucked out with my kids loving books. It's such a complex topic with a lot to consider!


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